“Whoa, did he just say that?” Sometimes a futuristic premillennialist with strong convictions is ridiculed for basing his end times views on something that has yet to occur. He can be misunderstood as having his own private brand of arrogance. As if it is absurd to make a biblical case for the thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth from God’s Word.
Should we avoid offering a millennial position? No.
Does it really matter how we approach the biblical text? Yes.
That’s because we want to know what Scripture says about these end times issues. Most especially as it relates to the timing of Christ’s kingdom reign. It will bring clarity to the entire His-story of mankind; to the sovereign purposes of God; to the complete fulfillment of what has been promised by the Promise-Maker.
It is my belief that a plain reading of the book of Revelation yields premillennial fruit—meaning that a literal grammatical-historical method of interpretation provides a sound futurist eschatology (end times view). The reader who interprets Scripture normally, will understand its words in their normal meanings as one would in normal communication. He will be encouraged to learn of a coming kingdom; and it will inform his worldview.
As I enter the last fifty pages of Dr. Walvoord’s commentary this week in prep for teaching on Revelation 20, I’m having a hard time putting the book down. It is that good.
Here’s one such example, as Walvoord presents his three-fold case for premillennialism (the belief that their will be a literal, earthly reign of the Lord Jesus Christ for a thousand years following His second coming and preceding the Eternal State):1
“And I saw” or “Then I saw” [are] used repeatedly throughout Revelation… With the great variety of interpretations of Revelation 20 and their corresponding influence on eschatology, the task of giving an exposition of this chapter is greatly complicated.
The confusion of so many interpretations, however, is dispelled if the events of the chapter are allowed to follow in their natural chronological sequence, with the return of Christ and the conquest of the beast and the false prophet serving as the introduction to the millennium. The opening events of the twentieth chapter then become a natural outgrowth of the battle in which the beast and the false prophet and his armies are destroyed, leading to the next step, the judgments of Satan himself. The repeated phrases “Then I saw” or “And I saw” (cf. 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11, 12) mark the major steps of the progress of revelation.
The sequence of events is supported not only by the chronological order itself (note the “when” of 20:7) but the logical dependence of one event upon the preceding event. This is strong evidence for chronological order in this section, and if this is granted, the millennial kingdom follows the second coming as described in 19:11-16. The only reason for denying such a conclusion would be to avoid premillennialism.
The repeated use of 1,000 in Revelation 20 (six times), whereas indefinite terms for time and other instruments are used in other places in the same chapter: “little while” (v. 3), a number “like the sand of the sea” (v. 8).
The six mentions of “a thousand years” in Revelation 20 are sufficient to establish the doctrine as scriptural… [quoting MacArthur] “It is highly doubtful that any symbolic number would be repeated six times in a text, as a thousand is here”… [quoting Hoehner] “Whenever the number one thousand is used in Revelation, it refers to something definite.” Examples are the 144,000 (Rev. 4:7; 14:1, 3); the 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3; 12:6); the 1,600 stadia (Rev. 14:20); and the 12,000 stadia (Rev 21:6)… when the Bible speaks of “a thousand years” as in Psalm 90:4, a literal thousand years is meant. A thousand years with us is only a moment with God, but this does not deny that it is actually a thousand years with us. Again, when 2 Peter 3:8 states that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, the meaning is clear that one day with God is as a literal thousand years with mankind.
3. Church History
Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Victorinus, and other early church fathers held a literal view of the thousand years (called “chialism” in their time, from the Greek word for “thousand”). This view prevailed for the first three hundred years of the church.
Again, I believe that the Revelation of Jesus Christ has serious implications for the Christian’s worldview, and its major events can largely be understood. Dr. Walvoord’s three-fold case of chronology, context, and church history, offer us a compelling rationale for the doctrine of premillennialism.
1 Walvoord, John F. The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries: Revelation (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011). 298-303.